So You Wanna Be An Expat (…maybe)

So, your husband (or wife) just walked through the door and laid this incredible (and crazy) opportunity on the kitchen table over your meatloaf and mashed potatoes.  First, you think “Wow!  How cool would it be to live in (insert your city of choice here)!”  All of these ideas of grandeur start streaming through your head…you’ll get to travel, learn a new language, live life in a new culture, consume lots of bread, cheese, and wine…blah, blah, blah. 

For my husband and I, the idea of living oversees was always something we had been interested in.  He had always travelled quite a bit oversees for work, and I had always been interested in the idea.  I just didn’t think it was ever really going to happen.  I remember our first real discussions of an opportunity to move to Europe…My husband and I were in Las Vegas having dinner.  I don’t know how it came up, but we both decided that it would be super cool, and that if the opportunity presented itself – we’d go, no doubt about it.  Flying home from our trip, I was seated next to a woman who happened to be an expat living in Germany for her husband’s job.  She was on a home leave trip to visit her family.  In my head I thought…”Huh.  What a coincidence.”

I think if you are really offered this kind of opportunity, you and your family really need to do some soul searching before accepting an offer.  You’ve got to be fully invested in the idea.  This is something that you can’t half ass.  And if you try to, you’ll be miserable.  You’ve got to have an open mind, and you’ve got to dive in whole hearted…for your spouse’s sake, your kid’s sake, and most of all…for your sake.  I’m not going to lie…living in a foreign country is a tough pill to swallow.  You’ll feel like everything is an uphill battle…from getting your residency visa in order to move, to going to the grocery store to find Tylenol (which is not sold at the grocery store, which is not called Tylenol, nor is it called acetaminophen).

I think you’ve also got to remember that most expat assignments are temporary, unless you’re like a diplomat or something.  It’s probably not going to be forever.  And, if one opportunity leads you to another (as it did in my case)…well, then you’ll know what to expect a little more, now won’t you?  You’re probably not going to love your house (because it’s not “yours”), or your neighborhood (because your BFF doesn’t live next door anymore), or your child’s school (because Billy has a crush on his 2nd grade teacher), or whatever “thing” you’ll just have an excuse not to like.  But, if you remember that it’s a temporary situation, I think it will make the sting hurt a little less.

Okay, so let’s face it…you’re either in or out.  Being scared to death to do something so out of your realm of “normal” isn’t abnormal, nor is it something to be embarrassed about.  I’m scared every day.  I never know what kind of experience I am going to get into.  But, isn’t that’s part of the excitement too?  I guess I’m always complaining that I’m not challenged enough…that I don’t “use” my brain like I used to because I’m reading “Hippos Go Berserk” for the 25th consecutive time, instead of business cases or spreadsheets.  But, in fact I am using my brain…mapping out my family’s path each day, dealing with the daily “issues” (as little as they might be), and trying to find happiness in there somewhere.  So, if you’re up for the challenge — Join me, it’s a crazy world!

3 thoughts on “So You Wanna Be An Expat (…maybe)

  1. Claire being a stay at home is by far the HARDEST job on the face of the earth (I was one for 6 1/2 years)! I can't EVEN imagine being a stay at home mom in a foreign country! Why do you think I went back to work part time! I needed a break, and I only say that half jokingly! I am serious! Kudos to you on being a GREAT mom in a foreign land and muddling your way thru all the crazy stuff you have to go thru! How do you find tylenol anyway? Miss you guys!

  2. Claire…this is excellent! It's funny to read this from an expat and be an expat. It's all of the things you think to yourself when you're going through it and you wonder if you'll ever make it through a day. You've really put into writing the truths of fumbling through a new country. I think it says a lot that you can laugh about some of the things now, because there have been so many instances where I certainly don't feel like laughing (such as when I couldn't get the ATM door open because I thought I needed to push the door or scan my card and then push the door; so I tried doing this several times, went back to my car, pouted, tried again, pouted, tried again, and finally got back in the car and vented my whole ride home how we couldn't get dinner because I had no cash and I couldn't get into the ATM. Well, when I told my husband about it, he said “you just needed to pull the door”. Hummm, if I could only read Dutch.) Anyways, it took me awhile to laugh about that one. Keep the postings coming. You're a natural writer or your hard work with term papers and book reports is really paying off. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  3. Whoooaaa, Claire, I could figure out that you have an impressive verbal ability, but you have a beautiful way of put thought into words.
    I loved it, enjoyed and most of it laughed a lot, I can say I share lots of feelings from the things you mentioned in all the phrases I read (read them all). Carry on and write, and thanks for sharing, its a great pleasure to read…
    I dont know about Eat pray love maybe not the right order, I found it too shallow (sorry to offend anyone) but I feel you can do better, do not take this idea of your agenda…
    Anyway, I had great fun.

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